Twitter and the Cult of Positivity

A blog post from Kevin Drum ("Bad Mood Blogging") reminded me of something I'd been meaning to post about for a long time: why criticism and critical thinking is the norm in the blogosphere, but not on Twitter.

Blogging:  Kevin twisted his ankle and as a result will be on crutches for the next week, and as a result of being on crutches will be in a bad mood.  Guess what?  He's wound up to blog, rightly thinking that his bad mood should not go do waste:
Well, I fell off the bottom rung of a stepladder a couple of hours ago and bent my ankle about 30 or 40 degrees further than nature intended. The good news is that it turned out not to be broken. (Bonus good news: the emergency room was quiet tonight and they got right to me.) The bad news is that it hurts like hell and I'm going to be on crutches for the next week. Needless, to say, this puts me in a terrible mood.

Which shouldn't go to waste! By Monday morning I should be in a nice, foul temper indeed, ready to vent righteously on anybody or anything that crosses my path. So go ahead and leave your requests in comments. Who or what would you like me to skewer?
His last line is interesting. Drum is an old school blogger (one that you may remember reading from his days at CalPundit) and even though I'm a law blogger, I agree with him 100% that while you can say nice things about someone in a blog post, many of the better blog posts involve skewering someone.  Although I was never part of the political blogosphere, a "takedown" was traditionally the blogger's stock in trade.  That's where bloggers shine.

Blogging stands in sharp contrast to Twitter. 

Twitter:  Twitter is a big place, and I can't speak for much of Twitter, but my impression is that the mainstream Twitter user is overwhelmingly positive.  Positivity certainly reigns supreme in the corner of the Twittersphere that I frequent, and my impression is that there are other pockets of it that are overwhelmingly positive as well. Twitter is all about highlighting positive things and people.  The virtual high five or pat on the back is currency on Twitter.  Indeed, research is passed around which shows that "negative remarks lead to fewer followers."  In my (admittedly anecdotal experience), while there are a few people who call it like they see it, most legal birds are effusive in their praise and quick to withhold criticism.  And this extends to points of view taken, articles passed around, etc.  It's almost as if it's socially unacceptable to say that something sucks.  There are few exceptions to this (again, Twitter is a big place, so there are probably entire pockets of Twitter that are just straight up negative and noir, but I've not really come across them). 

One of the exceptions in my Twitter stream is Brian Tannebaum.  Brian has a post today talking about how he has been invited to give a talk on online branding.  In his post, he notes the same thing that I mention here - that people on Twitter don't look for or foster "dissent":
The social media folk will never understand the value of negativity. The value of accepting a dissenting voice, a person who questions both it, and the people behind the curtain. To the social media types, transparency is the enemy of their business.
___

Now you may or may not share Brian's view of why there's less dissent or critical thinking on Twitter.  But I will say one thing.  I do note the negative effects of overwhelming positivity:  bad content gets passed around freely and praised.  Bad ideas too.  Bad conferences.  Bad people.  Bad media. Blogs are a much much better filter of stuff for me (granted you can say more when you are not limited to 140 characters).  On Twitter, I'm routinely disappointed with what someone (or many people) often describe as a "great article!" 

In fact, I wonder if Twitter overall has had a negative effect on blogs and content from a quality standpoint.  Twitter is a huge content promotion and feedback mechanism for blogs and content in general, but people only ever say nice things about blog posts and content on Twitter (the big exception is probably the political Twittersphere, but I'm not too into the 140 character political rants, so I don't know for sure).  Rarely do you hear someone say "this blog post sucks" (and trust me, I've come across many blog posts on Twitter where this would have been appropriate).  Twitter probably skews in favor of positive blog posts too.  I get the feeling critical blog posts don't get a much play on Twitter. 

Whether you are a casual Twitter user or someone who Tweets all day, I think it's worth thinking about the effects of this.  I also think it's worth thinking about the collective effects.  Twitter is hugely influential on everything from movies to journalism to cars.  What's the effect of the cult of positivity in other segments or industries?  Is it good for entrepreneurs or business people?  Journalists?  Non-profits?  I don't know, but I don't think it's entirely a positive thing for legal birds.   

[Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of positivity. I've been described (in-person) as annoyingly enthusiastic or positive. !High five!]

Added: 
"Think People Are Too Negative Online? Welcome to the Internet" (An Associate's Mind)
"What Is It About Twitter" (Simple Justice)
 
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